How Anxiety Changed my Life: Part 2

Dad (aka Santa Clause) and I at Christmas.
Dad (aka Santa Claus) and I at Christmas.

My dad suffered from anxiety since his early 40s. He was not alone. His siblings, his father, and his grandfather suffered from anxiety, too. Their legacy was to continue with me.

When both my father and mother realized I was showing signs of anxiety, they shared with me the techniques Dad had learned from a cassette tape and video he acquired from his doctor. Dad taught me the breathing techniques that worked for him. He taught me how to use them to help control my sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system triggers the fight or flight response in your body. I tried it and it helped… but many years later. At the time I was like the typical person that wanted instant results. The video, on the other hand, was supposed to help relax my mind and body. Instead, It was like tie-dye in motion and it made me feel more anxious. It was not a good solution for me.

I knew I needed to find solutions that worked for me. I didn’t want to rely on synthetic drugs and I wanted to take a holistic approach to relieve my symptoms of anxiety. I did some research on the internet on how to deal with it. One website suggested repetitive motion, like sweeping the floor. Other suggestions were meditation, yoga, or cardiovascular exercise. http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/02/cant-relax-because-of-anxiety-get-repetitive/

I took the simple approach and started with kids coloring books and crayons. The repetitive motion of coloring seemed to calm my nerves. Then again, once I graduated, left my job, and got married the anxiety was happening less. I thought, “Yeah! I’m cured!” Unfortunately, this was not the case.

After the wedding we lived with my parents. During this time the movers came and packed up John’s apartment in Salem and my things at my parent’s house in Lowell. Our stuff was on its way to West Virginia. In the meantime, we lived at my parent’s house yet spent a lot of our time traveling back and forth between Massachusetts and our new state. Eventually we found a place to live in: a quiet neighborhood in Martinsburg about 15 minutes away from John’s new job. It would be ours for the next three and half years.

New Year’s Eve of 2007 came quickly and my brother Albert and his beautiful wife Stacy had a party. I was excited to be closing the year with my family because we were leaving soon after. We spent the following day with my family. It was bittersweet. I was starting a new life with my new husband but I was going to live 500 miles away from everything I knew.

January 2, 2008, was a cool brisk day in New England. John and I loaded up our vehicles, said our final goodbyes, and drove 8 hours south to Martinsburg. We each had a walkie talkie so we could communicate while on the road. After a couple of stops and many hours later, we finally arrived. We took refuge in a hotel off the I-80 in Martinsburg courtesy of my parents.

The next morning we woke with great anticipation and excitement. We were off to sign papers for our first house and get the keys. That night we slept on a blow up mattress and ordered take out. The next day we were ready for our belongings to be delivered to our new home. What a mess…ugh!

The next few months were dedicated to cleaning, opening boxes, and finding a place for our stuff. It was a bigger challenge than I anticipated. This was my first move after all. I decided not to work right away because I wanted time to recover from my burn out.

After a couple of months I was getting bored staying home all the time. I wanted to poke my eyeballs out so I started the search. I was looking for a volunteer job that would support my recently acquired degree in graphic design. Let’s face it folks, there are not a lot of graphic design jobs in “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia. I most certainly was done with retail.

I found a volunteer job with the American Red Cross. I met with the local chapter and they gave me a chance. When I met the other employees there was one person that I got a bad feeling about. I dismissed it because everyone seemed to like her. I put that aside and focused on my work. I helped design a billboard, did layout for an advertisement book, helped with Red Cross mailings and so much more. One day I was asked to do cold calls to try and raise funds. The thought of doing this made me nervous but I felt I had to do it. This trigged the start of a long run of anxiety and panic attacks.

It was terrible.

I couldn’t leave the house. I was a hermit. It was so bad I couldn’t go grocery shopping. I would have to tell myself I was going for John so I could fill the fridge with food.

Around this same time I was having physical issues. I would eat something that was fatty and couldn’t stand up straight after. The pain in my left side ran across my stomach to my right side. I had pain in my right shoulder. I slowly stopped eating foods that were high in fat. I started to loose weight. I finally went to the doctor and they determined I had a diseased gallbladder. Bottom line: it wasn’t working. The gallbladder stores bile. When you eat, bile is transferred to your stomach to break down the fats in the food. That was not happening for me.

On February 6, 2009, I had my gallbladder removed. After that my diet was limited. I could only eat plain chicken, turkey, rice, noodles and potatoes. That is all I ate. My acid reflux was a nightmare and my digestion was way wonky. Over the next year, I lost more than 70 pounds. The doctors could not figure out why I kept loosing weight.

Although the doctors could not determine why, I thought it was because 3 years earlier I had half my thyroid taken out. Although I only had half, I suspected I suffered from hyperthyroidism. This disease increases your metabolism, makes your heart race, and so much more. They wanted to put me on medication but I said no. Instead, I tried to handle it on my own. However, my anxiety got even worse. So much so I had to drive myself to the emergency room because my arms would go numb and I thought I was having a heart attack.

But I didn’t.

I became more sheltered in our home and was nervous about every little pain or twinge in my body. It was about a year and half since we moved to Martinsburg and my “condition” was wearing thin on my husband. He didn’t know what to do. I was an exposed nerve and there was nothing that comforted me. Unfortunately this provoked a fight between us. I won’t get into the details but lets say it wasn’t pleasant. The silver lining was that it was a turning point for me.

Me in massage school before graduation.
Me in massage school before graduation.

I cried myself to sleep every night for the next two weeks begging God to point me in the direction I needed to go in. One night, out of the blue, I had my “AH-HA” moment. I wanted to be a massage therapist. I could work with people and help them in an environment that wouldn’t be stressful.

I found a few schools in our area. There was one school that stood out to me. It was a 7 month program and the cost of tuition included everything. The only thing was that it was an hour away in Frederick, Maryland. We visited the school and signed me up. I was excited and nervous but ready to move forward with my life. I was excited to learn a new trade that I could use wherever I went.

About 2 months into the program, I allowed a fellow student to perform energy work on me. Energy work is defined as “the techniques originating from ancient traditions and recent discoveries that are used to manipulate the bioenergy of the patient with the goal of restoring harmony or removing blockages from within the body.” She was not trained and I shouldn’t have let her. I didn’t feel the effects right away. It wasn’t until after I got home from school that I started to feel the symptoms. I started having pain in the center of my stomach. My eyes felt like lead weights and it seemed like I was looking through a fish bowl. I couldn’t stop crying and shaking. She worked on me on a Friday and by Monday I was a mess. I had to call John at work and ask him to come and get me at school because I couldn’t drive home. John immediately brought me to my chiropractor and he balanced my energy and realigned my body. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/energy+work

I was not the same after I had that energy work done on me. There were certain students I couldn’t be around or bare to have touch me. Every day for two months straight I had anxiety and panic attacks – two to three times a day. It always seemed to happen when it was time to get on the table and get a massage. Someone would touch me and I would start to get nervous and want to run.

One day a new instructor came in. She knew our current instructor because she taught her the art of massage when she was in school. She saw me having trouble and had me lay on my back. She held my feet and took hold of my toes. One by one, she gently squeezed each one, moving from my little toes to my big. It was weird but I felt better. She told me she was performing zero balancing on me. The definition of Zero Balancing is: A powerful body-mind therapy that uses skilled touch to address the relationship between energy and structures of the body. Following a protocol that typically lasts 30 to 45 minutes, the practitioner uses finger pressure and gentle traction on areas of tension in the bones, joints and soft tissue to create fulcrums, or points of balance, around which the body can relax and reorganize. http://www.zerobalancing.com/about

A week or so later, I was having another anxiety attack. Out of nowhere, my new instructor said, “You know this is a gift?” I thought, “Are you nuts? I can do without the anxiety gift, thank-you very much!” As it turns out, she was right. I’ll get into that more later.

I still had no idea at this time I was an empath. My instructors suggested I try acupuncture. That also helped my anxiety. Later on, I also took a class called Energetic Core. It was all about different meditations and how to keep myself centered and balanced.

After a long 7 months in massage school, I finally became a certified massage therapist. Two months later I passed the National exam and got licensed in the state of West Virginia. I got my first job with a chiropractor and then a second as a sub contractor. For the next 7 months I worked as a massage therapist. Unfortunately I was still having anxiety and panic attacks.

In June of 2011, John received orders again. This time we moved to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the island of Oahu in Hawai`i. Moving to the island was like moving to the center of an energetic tornado. But I’ll explain more about that next time.

To be continued

The Anxiety of Living with Someone with Anxiety

usOnce upon a time I met a girl named Christine…

She was funny yet direct, demanding yet loving, and had a sparkling spirit that manifested in a very busy life. She worked full time at a retail store in Nashua, New Hampshire yet attended Salem State College full time. She was working on her second Bachelor’s degree. Christine spent much of her off-time commuting between the two locations, working on her degree program, visiting family in Lowell, and supporting a very needy boyfriend: me.

We were two peas in a pod: highly motivated but dangerously passionate. I was working full time with the Coast Guard in Boston and looked forward to attending Brandeis University in the fall. My employers were going to fund my Master’s degree as a fulltime student. I was looking forward to the change.

We fell in love. For a short time, everything was perfect. We ate pizzas at my apartment while watching American Idol. We’d throw in an occasional horror movie and cuddle on the couch. We even spent a weekend looking for covered bridges up north. Romance was in the air and we loved it.

Christine started to show signs of strain when she called me one day in tears from the highway. She said her heart was racing and felt as if she were dying. Not fully understanding the problem, I stayed on the phone with her until she arrived at my apartment. Later on that evening, when the symptoms didn’t subside, we went to the emergency room. After the usual long wait, she finally saw the nurse. “You just had a panic attack,” she said as if it were no big deal.

I felt the same way: it was no big deal. Christine was just tired and needed to rest. She’d be fine the next day. We’d get back to eating pizzas and watching scary movies in no time.

But we never did. Instead of getting better, she only got worse. Looking back on it, I was no help whatsoever. Instead of patience, I pushed. Instead of support, I demanded. Her expressions of fear led to resentment. “We had plans,” I’d say. “Why do you keep screwing up my plans?”

It was her fault that our life wasn’t going my way.

Despite my nasty disposition, she still agreed to marry me. However, instead of starting our new life in wedded bliss, it was horrible. The Coast Guard relocated us to Martinsburg, West Virginia, away from her family and away from her support system. All three of us were thrust together in an alien landscape: she, her “issue”, and I.

Someone had to go.

Within the first six months, I thought for sure it would be me. I even threatened to leave if she didn’t get her act together. But I didn’t. Neither did she or it.

It’s been part of our life ever since.

There is nothing wrong with feeling anxious. We feel it all the time. Sometimes we are afraid or nervous or concerned. It’s our mind’s way of protecting ourselves from harm. Problems happen when normal anxiety turns into something more: a disorder. Disorders are mental or behavioral patterns that impair a person’s ability to function from day-to-day. Christine most likely suffers from what’s called Panic Disorder. Panic Disorder is defined as “…spontaneous seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even during sleep.”

Science is vague about what prompts anxiety disorders in some people but not in others. It could be chemical, it could be environmental, it could be lifestyle, or it could be genetics. Sometimes it accompanies other disorders like depression or substance abuse and sometimes it doesn’t. It could be all of these or none of these. Nevertheless, it is real.

The most important thing to understand about Panic Disorder, or any other anxiety-related disorder for that matter, is that it’s completely outside a person’s control. Worse yet, it can’t be avoided. In other words, you either get it or you don’t. It can happen unexpectedly, too. It’s not age or stress dependent. If it happens, it happens.

There are methods for managing the disorder but none can cure it. Pharmaceuticals, the easy out, are not necessarily the right answer. Many come with side effects that are significantly worse than the disorder itself. Just ask my wife.

Living with someone with Panic Disorder is not easy because you need to readjust your life to accommodate his or hers. For someone like me with a long history in the military, it’s even harder. All that structure, planning, and control is tossed out the window in favor of pure chaos.

And I hate it.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to leave for work at 5 a.m. in the morning as your wife is weeping in your arms because she had a panic attack while she slept? Or when you get a phone call from school because she is so panic-stricken that she can’t drive?

Do you have any idea how hard it is to convince someone they are not going to die?

This is what it’s like to be married to a girl with anxiety. It’s a day-to-day battle where everything and anything goes. The worst part is its unpredictability. Christine could be doing exactly the same thing today as she was yesterday but react completely different. She could be laughing one minute and crying the next. It’s frustrating and painful. It leaves me feeling highly stressed and completely helpless.

I don’t like that, either.

The big question is why I didn’t leave her in West Virginia and avoid the whole mess completely. It’s a difficult question to answer but its roots lie in one simple fact: I had been married twice before and was not going to have my third fail. I was determined to make it work regardless of the consequences to either of us.

And I’m glad I did.

Although the last 8 years have been a roller coaster of highs and lows, I learned a lot about my wife’s anxiety disorder and myself. I learned that these disorders are very common and affect other people I know. More importantly, I learned that the girl and the panic are two separate things. Christine is a loving and charming person who happens to suffer from panic attacks. It’s not her fault. She didn’t ask for it and I shouldn’t blame her for it.

Yes, life has changed. I’ve had to reconsider my long-term plans in favor of singular events. But even those need a contingency plan so I’m always prepared to walk away. I’ve become more patient and supportive. Instead of resisting massage, acupuncture, and holistic healing, I look at them through her eyes: methods for bringing relief and better understanding. I’ve learned that it’s okay to do things on my own and not feel guilty about it. I’ve also learned to always carry a cell phone.

The moral of this story is quite simple: Love is not easy. If you truly care about someone, you have a duty to remain steadfast and determined yet remain open to change – regardless of how big or how broad. There is absolutely no way of knowing what the future will be like and you can’t run from it. A strong person will persevere, a weak person will not.

I am very proud of Christine. Despite her struggle with anxiety, she, too, has remained steadfast and determined. Her willingness to share her story with the world – a very tough choice to make, by the way – is admirable. Like her, I hope her story can help others suffering with similar issues.

In the end, I can think of no better person I’d like to spend the rest of my life with than Christine.

Thanks, Snuggle Bunny, I love you!

How Anxiety Changed my Life

Christine2Merriam-Webster dictionary defines anxiety as:

1a :  painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill

b :  fearful concern or interest

c :  a cause of anxiety

2:  an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety

Anxiety changed my life nearly 8 years ago. It was 2007 and I weighed in at a light 235 pounds. I was working full time for the Christmas Tree Shops and attending Salem State College full time. I was also planning my wedding. I knew that by the end of the year my life would be turned upside down.

My day to day routine was busy. Each day started at 6 a.m. when I left my future husband’s apartment in Salem, Massachusetts for work. I would travel the 30-35 minutes to Nashua, New Hampshire where I worked my 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. I’d then repeat the trip in reverse, driving back to Salem via Route 3 to Route 128. Coming home was bad. I’d spend more than two and a half hours driving in bumper to bumper traffic while people cut me off, flipped me the bird, and yelled a few choice words (after all these years, writing about this experience stresses me out…).

On the other hand, there were brief moments of pure joy. The best part of the drive home was when I saw John driving in the opposite direction to school and we would honk our horns and wave at each other as we passed by. There were times when he wasn’t in school that I would have him meet me at the Burlington Mall to have supper because the traffic was so bad.

Eventually I’d get back to John’s apartment where I would start to work on my art homework. Many times I’d find myself working long into the night and have to leave at 2 or 3 a.m. to get something printed at Kinkos for the following day. Between work and school, I did not always have lots of time to spend with John or my family. Still, I was determined to get it all done. At that time in my life, when some one told me I couldn’t do something I felt fueled to prove them wrong.

Christine3At the end of April 2007, I was finishing up all my classes. Graduation was right around the corner. One of my last classes was Portfolio Class. I had one week to pull together all my art work in one place. Why only one week? I had spent so much of the semester perfecting one piece of art that I didn’t leave much time to get the rest of it together. Needless to say, I spent every free moment working on the computer to get it all done. This meant lots of coffee, no sleep, and a lack of nutrition my body needed. By the end of the week, when it was time to present my portfolio, I could barely keep my eyes open. It didn’t matter how much coffee I consumed. My body was ready to shut down. I’m sure I made a good impression on the professionals reviewing my work as I sat in front of them bobbing for apples…LOL!

I had to work the next day. I should have called out sick because I was exhausted. I forged ahead anyway. I stopped at the local Starbucks and asked for a Venti white chocolate mocha with an extra shot of expresso. It turned out to be a horrible mistake.

It took me all day to finish my coffee. When 3 p.m. came, I was ready to go but felt strange. My heart started to race. I didn’t think much about it at the time. I knew I had a huge coffee and I was tired. I got in my car to drive back to Salem.

As I sat there, my heart seemed to beat even quicker. Once I got to the connection of Route 3 to Route 128, my left arm started to get numb. I started to panic and thought, “Oh my God, I am having a heart attack!” I called John for support. I asked him to stay on the phone with me until I reached his apartment. He said, “You’re fine. You’re just over tired and had too much caffeine.” He stayed on the phone with me until I arrived.

I finally reached his apartment feeling just as bad as I did while on the road. John had made tacos for supper. I wasn’t hungry and I couldn’t think about eating. I laid on the sofa and tried to calm down. It seemed to keep escalating. Finally it was so bad I couldn’t breathe. I asked him to take me to the emergency room. I couldn’t breathe and I was crying because I was so afraid of dying. The fear was so overwhelming I’m surprised I didn’t pass out. Although, that was a good thing: John would not have been able to carry me…LOL!

The nurse in the emergency room looked at me and said, “You’re just having a panic attack. You’re fine.” She then told me to focus on a poster that was hanging on the wall. Honestly, I just wanted to smack her upside the head because here I am feeling like I was going to die and she is saying I’m fine and that it’s no big deal. I sure wasn’t fine!

They checked me out and hooked me up to a heart monitor and did an E.K.G. We were there for a few hours when they finally determined it was just what the nurse said: a panic attack. They sent me home with a few Atavan and gave me a prescription for more. They told me that when I felt anxious I should take one. The problem was that they made me feel like I could sleep for a year. It knocked me on my butt. We went home and I slept it off. The next day I felt better and thought, “I’m good. I can continue the way I have been going.”

WRONG! Little did I know this was going to be an ongoing thing.

Needless to say I had more episodes. I can remember one of those times so clearly. Back then I was into horror movies and head banging music. On Saturday nights, John and I would rent movies and my parents would buy supper. This particular Saturday we rented Zodiac, a movie about a serial killer.

This is where my life shifted again.

As we watched this horrific movie, and I saw him take a women’s life by stabbing her 14 times, I started to feel like maybe I could do something like this.

Wait, What?! Me do something like that? No, no, no, no! I started to panic and I had to leave the room. I went into the kitchen and was in tears feeling completely horrified that I had these feelings and thoughts that I could do something so terrible.

From that day forward I would have battles with myself. I’d keep telling myself I am not that person and that I don’t want to hurt anyone. I would ask John if I was a good person and I was constantly trying to convince myself I would never hurt anyone. This just made my anxiety and panic attacks worse.

I stopped watching horror movies and listening to heavy metal music. I only wanted to surround myself with Disney movies and happy music. I wanted to override all of those terrifying thoughts and feelings. I thought that if I could fill my life with positive things then I could stop the attacks from happening.

I went to my doctor again and they prescribed another anxiety medicine. I don’t remember what it was called but I will never forget my experience with it.

I had taken one pill before going to bed. I got up the next morning, a Sunday, and drove to work. As I was driving in my car I felt like I was sitting behind myself watching me drive. That was messed up. I had to pull over to the side of the road 2 or 3 times to throw up.

I finally got to work and was not feeling any better. One of the store’s assistant managers came into the office I worked in and he reeked of cigarette smoke. Oh boy, I had to run to the bathroom and throw up again. I told him I would stay if he needed me but he sent me home. I drove to my parent’s house in Lowell and crashed on the sofa, crying my eyes out because I felt so horrible and afraid.

ChristineFrom that day forward I vowed never to take another anti-anxiety medicine again and I haven’t. Some of you out there may think that I am crazy or maybe that I was strong for not giving in but I don’t think I was either of these. I just made a choice: a choice that was good for me. I didn’t want to contaminate my body with unhealthy foods or synthetic medicine. I say you need to do what is best for you and your highest good.

I made more changes in my life like the way I fed my body. I stopped drinking caffeine and eating foods with caffeine in it, like chocolate. I stopped eating foods with artificial coloring, flavoring, and preservatives. I was back on the Dr. Feingold way of eating, http://www.feingold.org. I stopped drinking cans of Pepsi and eating the junk food in the vending machines. John and I even started the six week body makeover and really focused on being healthy. John started running and lost about 30 pounds and I lost about 20.

I thought that if I started feeding my body in a healthy way, there would be less chance for me to have a panic attack.

Once again, WRONG! Don’t get me wrong I was making good choices by changing my eating habits and getting healthy but it wasn’t the cure.

To be continued. 

What does it all mean?

Every thing around me is clean and white. Even the air around me seem to have have a sparkle to it. It was a bright comfortable day. Not too cold and not too warm. It seemed like paradise.

As John and I enter into the community in search of the Leader I encounter a women who is holding a baby. I asked her if she was the one I was looking for. She looked at me like she didn’t know how to answer the question. She was very indecisive. I got frustrated with her and was like well are you or aren’t you? As I walked away I rolled my eyes at her. Although, I knew the person I was looking for was male.

We walked away and sat on a wall near the pool. As I sat there, I knew my appearance was not as clean and white as my surroundings. I seemed dirty like the red dirt from Sedona. A man and women approached me and said they liked the puka shells I was wearing. I gave them a shaka and said Aloha! Then I thought, “I don’t wear puka shells, John does”.

We got up and walked around the pool and there were people all around, some were in the pool. As I stood at the end of the pool with John on my left, there was a man to my right that was wearing a grey suit. He jumped into the pool like a child on the first day of summer. I got the impression that the people in this community didn’t care about material things they cared more about feeling joy and being part of this family.

I looked toward the left corner of the pool and I saw the man I was looking for. He was in a bathing suit laughing and enjoying himself. I walked to where he was as he was getting out of the pool.

John and I followed him into his office. The office was more long than wide and to enter, you had to walk through this beautiful arch. It was all open and made of stone. There was a desk on one side and across from the desk was a platform with a sofa. John and I sat on the sofa. Next to his desk was another sofa and my parents were sitting there. My Mom on the right closest to the desk and my Dad sat next to her. She had this sheer red ribbon in her hand and it looked like she was making a bow.

The Leader asked us a question. He asked, “How many arms should we have?”

My Dad said he was going to ask the same question. John sat there like he didn’t know how to answer. My Mom said that having two arms was sufficient because she was able to make dresses to sell and that was her purpose for being here.

Somehow the sofa we were sitting on tipped backwards and we fell to the floor. I landed more on my feet and John flipped on his back and his feet went over his head and hit the wall. I was laughing and I woke up laughing.

I remembered being in this place before in a dream. I remember kneeling and praying. I knew the first time I had this dream that if I left I would change and not be able to come back. As I had the dream again I felt like I didn’t belong there anymore.

What does it all mean?

The AH-HA moment!

After we are born, we rely on our parents to give us nourishing food, a warm place to live, comfy clothes and a safe environment. As we get older, we find our independence. We feel invincible and able to conquer the world. We no longer rely on our parents as much.

As a teenager I struggled with understanding my parents way of expressing love, compassion and generosity. There were times when they had my best interest in mind yet I felt as if they were smothering me. For instance, my friends would go to the movies and hang out but I wasn’t allowed to go. At the time, I felt they were trying to control me. I felt I wasn’t given the opportunity to grow and mature.

When we get to a certain age, something in our life changes. We get married, have kids, and soon find ourselves living across country. It’s only then that we start to realize how important our parents really are. Or at least I hope we do.

I come from the East coast – New England – and lived there with my parents for the first 35 years of my life. When I married my husband, I was whisked away to Wild Wonderful West Virginia. It was challenging for me because I had left everything I knew behind. From there we moved even further away to the middle of the Pacific ocean. Hawai`i was a tropical paradise but it wasn’t New England. Today, seven years later, we live near San Francisco still 2,400 miles from home.

At the end of January I had the opportunity to spend almost two weeks with my parents. It was just them and me. It didn’t take long for me to feel like a teenager again. I had made a comment about needing another suitcase if I bought too many souvenirs. Because I said this, my folks went out of their way to find me one. They spent the day driving me to the mall and to two different outlet malls. I tried again to tell them that I didn’t need another suitcase and it was only if I bought too much stuff. I began to feel like I wasn’t being heard.

My AH-HA moment arrived.

I was so busy thinking about myself that I didn’t even consider that they were trying to help me. Talk about feeling like a donkey.

There were a couple more situations like this during the two weeks but by the end of the vacation I understood that this trip was not about me. It was about them. I was so thankful to have the time to spend with them. What a precious gift. Although, it took me some time to realize how precious it was.

My dad is going to be 79 this year and my mom 76. I am so grateful they are still here and I can call them when I need them. They are not retired and they are so busy and they do so much for my family, myself and anyone else that may need help. They are the most selfless, loving, compassionate people I know. I can’t think of a finer example for their seven children and eleven  grandchildren.

People really need to consider how precious their parents and family are because they will not be around forever. Just ask someone who has lost a parent, sibling or family member. There is no greater gift in this world than your parents. Cherish every moment and talk to them. Find out what their life has been like. I’ll bet you’ll find it more interesting than you think.

P.S…You can always start researching your family genealogy and compile your research in a book for generations to come. Check out Families Across Time for helpful information on how to do this.

Is this you or someone you know?

Have you been around a family member, friend, or co-worker who was in such a good mood that you couldn’t help but be in a good mood, too? Or the opposite: they were in a rip roaring bad mood and by the time you walked away you were feeling the same way?

This is how most of my life has been.

I always felt like I was different than the rest of my family. Instead of having that strong will and understanding of who I was and what I wanted, I was the opposite. I was led by my emotions and feelings and relied less on my reasoning – like they did. People who knew me and met my family for the first time would look at me with that tilted head, like an animal does when they are unsure, and say, “Where did you come from? You are nothing like your family.” It made me feel like Cinderella… LOL! All kidding aside, the point is that I chose to turn inward yet tried to fit in.

Ultimately people want to fit in, right?

Until 3 years ago, I didn’t have the tools or language to understand what I was feeling or sensing. I couldn’t explain to those around me the intensity of my emotions and how those emotions translated physically. Before 3 years ago, I didn’t understand that my abilities affected my daily life and affected those around me. What happened 3 years ago? You’ll have to continue reading my post to find out. What I can tell you is that up to that point, I didn’t know that I was an empath.

It’s not always easy to define the term empath but I did locate a great definition on the Internet that does just that:

“Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others.  Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions.  Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people.  You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily.  These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences and not so much yourself at all.  Essentially you are walking around in this world with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others.”

30 traits of an Empath (How to know if you’re an Empath) http://themindunleashed.org/2013/10/30-traits-of-empath.html  By: Christel Broederlow

To make it clear I will refer to myself as a sensitive and not an empath because I feel people can relate to the word sensitive more so. In addition what my abilities encompass is more than just being an empath and sensitive seems to cover it all.

I personally believe society dictates that sensitivity is a weakness. Vulnerability is challenging and hard to process because it can be overwhelming. I have experienced those who became angry with me because of my sensitivity. They became frustrated and angry, turning their focus from themselves to me. They made me feel inferior or were dismissive. I now understand why some people reacted in this way. Think about it, how many people in your life do you feel safe enough to be vulnerable in front of? I’ll bet not too many.

Most of my life people told me that I was too sensitive, a “baby”, over emotional, a pain in the butt, hyperactive, annoying. Each and every one of those labels where presented in a negative way. I truly believe they did not know how to be around someone who was so openly vulnerable.

When I was over tired, backed into a corner, or felt threatened, my “sensitivity” would bubble up to the surface. I would get crazy mad and scream and yell. I felt like a Drama Queen! There were times I would cry uncontrollably and I’d hear “Big Baby” or “your being over emotional!” If I was excited about something, I would bounce off the walls. I’d then be labeled “Hyperactive” or “Pain in the butt!” Those around me found these very expressive outbursts annoying. I can only speculate they felt as if they were in the middle of a tornado. Oh boy, can you imagine?

In addition to the sensitivity, I was blessed with ADD/ADHD as a child and adult. What this means for me is that food containing artificial coloring, flavoring, preservatives, flavor enhancers – like Monosodium-glutamate – would amplify my mood. If I was in a good mood, I would be in a hyper good mood. If I was in a bad mood, I would be in a explosively bad mood. Anger would come out in a nasty way and you would not want to be in my path. Sadness? Forget it. I would be a weeping willow all day.

I am grateful my parents refrained from putting me on medication as a child. Instead, they chose to put me on Dr. Feingold’s diet program. When I was 5 or 6 and in school the teachers felt I was too disruptive in class. My mother found Dr. Feingold’s cook book and put me on his diet. While following the Feingold program I was calmer, more focused, and my temperament evened out. That was my way of eating until I turned 18. I decided I didn’t need the diet anymore. Who was I was kidding? I was too focused on what I was missing and not what was in my best interest. Needless to say, I follow Dr. Feingold’s suggestions today. You can find his information and findings at this link. http://www.feingold.org.

Do you know anyone that’s like me? If you do, you may want to show some compassion, patience and understanding. Some people are just more sensitive than others. I feel there is no need to resort to pills to deal with the symptoms of ADD/ADHD or being a sensitive. Instead, we should educate ourselves. After I learned that I was an empath, I was able to learn more about it. Learning allowed me to come to terms with what I was feeling and build a network of support. Food, another thing that affected my life, can be easily changed. When combining the two, those pain in the neck, hyperactive or Drama Queen children and young adults become more understandable.

Take the time and research. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

Is it a dream or is it real?

Marie Ange Bertha Jacques 1913-1985
Marie Ange Bertha Jacques 1913-1985

Have you ever had a dream that felt so real? Maybe you dreamt about a loved one or a pet who had passed and when you woke up it felt more like a memory.

I have had several dreams like this.

My mémère (French for Grandmother) Jacques was everything to me. She was a tall women with brown permed hair. Her skin was like porcelain. Mémère had thick bottle-like glasses because she had cataracts. And she only wore dresses – or at least that’s what I remember. She had the warmest hugs, the sweetest French accent, and a most infectious giggle.

When speaking with a French Canadian who’s second language is English, they don’t say things the way we are used to hearing them. Mémère would pronounce “th”, as in thumb or thankful, more like a “t”. Thumb was more like tumb and thankful like tankful. I always loved that about her. She always carried Canadian mints – the peppermint and spearmint flavors. Her spearmint mints were pink so we called them Pepto Bismol mints.

Whenever she would call the house to talk to my mom, I would get so excited that I practically ripped the phone out of her hand. I was always excited to talk to mémère. I remember her coming out to dinner with our family and having her over the house during special occasions.

My most favorite memories were when she watched my younger brother and me at her house.

My uncles hunted and once killed a fox and had it stuffed and mounted. Whenever I would visit my mémère, I would sit in the small living room in the back of the house and hug the fox. When we weren’t watching TV we would sit at the kitchen table and play cards together. Mémère Jacques was so patient when we played cards. She’d often gave us a bowl of ice-cream. I loved her so very much. I miss her every day.

I remember the day she had passed. She had been very sick. I remember my sister staying with her to take care of her during her final days. On December 9, 1985, I was sitting in my 8th grade class doing my work. I looked up at the clock and the time read 3:00 p.m. I knew she had passed away. The story I was told is she had been in a coma for a while and my mother and the nurse were there when she had finally opened her eyes. The nurse told her to close her eyes and rest and then she passed.

It was a sad time but I know I didn’t fully understand it all. At that age I know I didn’t process the loss like an adult could. I remember not being sad right away. It was more like a happy feeling for her. I thought there was something wrong with me because I saw my family members crying from the loss.

It had been many years after her passing that I had this dream. I remember being in a kitchen. It was like a black and white scene that had a soft white haze. We were there along with my father’s mother who had passed three years earlier. They were teaching me how to boil potatoes. There were these huge pots on the stove, restaurant size, with boiling water. We were pealing potatoes to put in the pot. I remember thinking to myself, “is this real?” It felt real. The time that I spent with them they didn’t speak. They both just tended to their work.

After waking up from the dream I wanted to go back to sleep so I could be with them longer. I felt sad because I missed them so. I think it was her way of letting me know she is still with me even though she is no longer a part of the physical world.

What are your thoughts?